Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing Tips- Speaker Tags

Is anything else in writing so delicate, so miniscule, or so important to writing as speaker tags? They are tiny- and they are everywhere. Using them wrong can put of a reader for good. So what is the correct why?

What are Speaker Tags?  First, speaker tags are those two words (usually) that tell the reader who is talking and how they are saying it:


How to Use Them.  It is a common rule that 'said' and 'asked' are for the most part invisible. You can use them, they serve their purpose, and they don't throw the reader. Other speaker tags are not.

Constant use of constant use of 'mocked' or 'argued' will annoy. Ex:

"What are you doing?" questioned Sally.
"Oh, nothing," mocked Anna. "Only the same thing as every other day."
"You don't have to be like that," yelled Sally.
"Of course I do," argued Anna. "Nothing else seems to effect you."

I have heard some authors say to never use speaker tags other than 'said' and 'asked'. I disagree. Sometimes they can work, and I do mean sometimes. Like everything, they should be used in moderation, and that includes 'said' and 'asked'. See the example for if you do that:

"What are you doing?" asked Sally.
"Oh, nothing," said Anna. "Only the same thing as every other day."
"You don't have to be like that," said Sally.
"Of course I do," said Anna. "Nothing else seems to effect you."

Other Options
Drop it: Sometimes it is obvious who is speaking, like if there are only two people in the conversation. In that case, use the speaker tags for the first couple lines and then drop them all together.

Break it:  Try using a beat instead of a speaker tag. Ex:

"What are you doing?" The chipper question was asked by none other than Sally. The back stabber.
"Oh, nothing." Anna slammed her locker door. "Only the same thing as every other day."
Sally took a step back and frowned. "You don't have to be like that."
"Of course I do." Anna stepped around her once friend. She walked towards first period and said over her shoulder,  "Nothing else seems to effect you."

And Remember...   'Smirked', 'laughed', 'gagged', and 'shuttered' are not speaker tags. They are physically impossible to speak as. Ex:

Bad: "You're doing that wrong," Tim smirked.
Right: Tim smirked. "You're doing that wrong."

Now go! And write an Epic!

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